Sheffield Anatomy Society Academic Conference, 2019

Sheffield Anatomy Society Academic Conference, 2019

  • Rosie Broadbent
  • Zarnigar Khan
  • Fatima Sheriff

Sheffield Anatomy Society has grown significantly since its founding just two years ago. With over 210 members (from Biomedical Sciences, Dentistry and Medicine), the aim of the society is to cater for the anatomical educational needs of the students. The society has run at least one event every week, including weekly drawing workshops as well as peer-led revision sessions and mock spotters in the Medical Teaching Unit (MTU).

On Saturday 30th March was the first Sheffield Anatomy Conference, showcasing the diversity of anatomy as a subject. The conference comprised of talks from speakers across the country, a poster presentation and workshops.

To kickstart the day’s proceedings, John Rochester, the head of anatomical education for medical students at The University of Sheffield presented a compelling case for anatomy and osteology as a hobby. Collecting fossilised animal remains from a young age to tracking mating seasons and tidal patterns, he turned a childhood interest into a carefully documented and precise art form of classification. Some of his most impressive work came from careful measurement of whale vertebrae to deduce the number and species of a specimen posted by the Natural History Museum, as well as a lifelong undertaking to sort 5800 shrew skulls from an owl pellet. Far from the forensic and clinical understanding of human remains taught in the MTU, this talk was fresh and a passionate argument for applying attention to detail towards all anatomical knowledge.

In a far more conventional but educational talk involving the use of chick embryos and fluorescence, Thomas Butts, Programme Director for Anatomy and Human Biology at the University of Liverpool, turned our attention to soft tissue in a talk entitled ‘Building Bigger Brains’. Punctuated by admiration of Ramón y Cajal’s immaculate drawings of the cerebellum, adorable videos of his own children fully realising their proprioception and consisting mostly of developmental neuroscience through brand new figures from a PhD student, the lecture brought home the need for better understanding of neuronal migration to tackle neurological issues like autism.

The conclusion of the morning lectures came from Dr Adam Taylor, Director of the Clinical Anatomy Learning Centre at Lancaster University, who presented his fascinating research investigating the public’s understanding of anatomy. The project started in Lancaster and has since gained over 80,000 participants across the UK, encouraging individuals to locate various organs and structures on a body via an online questionnaire. The data collection ended in April 2019. It will be very interesting to see the results and use them to identify areas to improve the public’s understanding and engagement of anatomy. The outcomes of this project have the potential to develop teaching of anatomy through schools, to encourage understanding from a young age and has particular relevance to the field of medicine, to encourage better patient understanding of disease.

After a short coffee break, women reigned the rest of the talks, fittingly beginning with the University of Birmingham’s teaching fellow Lydia Boynton. Having studied gender inequality for her Master’s at Sheffield University, she explained the nuances of the ‘leaky pipeline’ in various scientific disciplines. Lydia really engaged the audience, her message particularly resonating with the current Master’s students who were inspired by her message of pursuing an academic career as a woman.

Next was the MTU manager Isabelle Heyerdahl-King, who presented her fascinating career path. She detailed following her passions for sheep, the Arctic, prehistoric archaeological remains to answer the question about what makes us human (spoiler alert: no snout and obligate bipedalism). Also returning to Sheffield was Dr Elizabeth Rennie aka GMC No: 238411, a forensic physician for 25 years, who has since returned to her roots in anatomy teaching. With some light-hearted mentions of The Archers and the ‘Villis of Circle’! she drilled in the need for the clear categorisation of injuries, and the consequences it can have, through the lens of experience with 10,567 cases to date.

During lunch, the poster competition highlighted the fascinating anatomical work students have carried out during their degrees. The prizes were awarded as follows:

1st place: The Merchant Prize awarded to Eleanor Patterson (University of Sheffield), who presented ‘The Anatomical Considerations involved in using Live versus Deceased Donors for Uterine Transplantation’.

2nd place: The Patil Prize awarded to Lesley Tinker (University of Sheffield), who presented ‘Anatomical considerations of surgical approaches to thyroid carcinoma’.

3rd place: The Patel Prize awarded to Zarnigar Khan (University of Sheffield), who presented ‘Superficial Neurovasculature of the Cubital Region’.

The afternoon consisted of rotations around 3 interactive workshops: virtual reality and 3D models (delivered by staff from the Royal Hallamshire Hospital), a demonstration of the Anatomage table which was driven from Milan for the day and a neuro inspired drawing workshop (delivered by Daheen Lee, resident medical illustrator).

The clinical applications of virtual reality and 3D models: using laptops to create a hemi-pelvis model from a series of CT scans, which could then be used for printing or seen through VR goggles. Attendees were able to get to try these headsets, exploring a colon and marking it for polyps for example. This was a very hands-on introduction to this kind of technology. More impressive were the printed models which could be used to replicate a patient’s organs to better understand their individual conditions.

A demonstration of the Anatomage table, the world’s first virtual dissection table explored a revolutionary way to deliver anatomy teaching to those who do not have access to dissection based, cadaveric teaching. It was also interesting to see the potential applications for this technology in the future, from observing blood flow to cancer pathologies.

The drawing workshop allowed the delegates to experience the workshops the society has been running throughout the year. This guided drawing of the brain was an excellent introduction to art, and a great way to revise notable features through the physicality of sketching and annotating. The Anatomy Society are hoping to continue these for the rest of the year.

Throughout the day, a pathology museum display was on show, which had been carefully compiled by Georgina Bond, staff member at the MTU. The museum displayed an array of specimens illustrating the macroscopic appearance of human disease; from a skull with a bullet wound repaired with a gold plate, to an intestine occluded by a trichobezoar. The specimens were carefully selected from over 2,500 pathology specimens currently being stored in the MTU. Unfortunately, the collection is no longer used in the teaching of the medics but Georgina hopes to encourage Phase 2a medical students to attend the MTU and integrate these specimens into their studies.

The day saw over 50 people engage and immerse themselves in the world of anatomy and was a great success, receiving fantastic feedback of the day. Anatomy Society hope this is the start of their expanding conferences nationally and will continue creating many exciting opportunities for their members in the future.